Republican to stand trial accused of promoting the IRA
Prominent republican 'Dee' Fennell has been ordered to stand trial, accused of encouraging support for the IRA.
Standing in the dock of Craigavon Magistrates Court, 33-year-old Fennell was formally charged with addressing a meeting "and the purpose of the said address was to encourage support for a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army," on April 5 last year.
Fennell, from Torrens Avenue in north Belfast, faces two further charges alleging that he further encouraged and invited support for a proscribed organisation.
The charge relates to a speech he gave during a 1916 commemoration event at St Colman's graveyard in Lurgan, Co Armagh on Easter Sunday.
Previous courts have heard claims that when police officers searched Fennell's home on April 20, they recovered one page of the hand-written speech behind a kitchen microwave.
His address was recorded and broadcast on the internet, only to be removed following media reports that police were investigating the content.
Fennell, a spokesman for the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective - which opposes Orange Order marches through his neighbourhood - was said to have been addressing an event by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, but during police questioning, where he denied encouraging any terrorism, his lawyer read a prepared statement claiming his comments about the armed struggle and existence of the IRA were his personal opinion.
Yesterday, the prosecution lawyer submitted that Fennell had a case to answer based on legal papers before the court - a submission which his defence lawyer took no issue with.
That being the case, District Judge Mervyn Bates said he was satisfied there was a prima facie case against Fennell who, although he had been given the opportunity to comment on the charge or give evidence to the committal hearing, chose to remain silent.
Releasing Fennell on continuing bail, Judge Bates ordered him to appear before Belfast Crown Court for his arraignment on a date to be fixed.